To better harmonise the measurement process, the JRC has designed a methodology which represents a uniform approach to sampling, analysis and data reporting. This will contribute to the generation of more consistent and inter-comparable data, which is a first and important step towards the eventual establishment of exposure levels in European drinking water. To define the methodology, JRC scientists first reviewed the scientific knowledge base on the nature, distribution and quantities of microplastics. The findings are published in the report ’Analytical methods to measure microplastics in drinking water’.

The most frequently found polymers in drinking water appeared to be polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polyester other than PET, and polypropylene. The JRC methodology initially defines which materials have to be addressed, the relevant size ranges, shapes and the unit of measurement. For the sampling, at least 1000 litres are required to quantify microplastics. Samples are collected using filters of different micron sizes (100 and 20 micron filters), to collect the solids in two size ranges.

These samples are then analysed via one of two possible methods – either by Infrared microscopy or Raman microscopy. These techniques allow the identification of the polymer type, its size and whether it is a particle or a fibre – all this information may in the future be relevant to understanding the nature and extent of our exposure to microplastics. Essential data from the analysis are recorded for comprehensive reporting. The European Commission is driving the development of legislation needed to tackle the potential threat of microplastics to people’s health and the environment.

Source: European Commission

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